That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to defer implementation of the Review Body special pay award for Ministers so as to set a necessary headline in relation to overcoming the current industrial relations difficulties in State companies, maintaining control of public expenditure and improving the competitiveness of our economy.
Fine Gael is opposing the increases of 17 per cent in pay for Ministers for two reasons. First, at a time when the Government is appealing for sacrifices from so many other workers, it is completely irresponsible for it to award such huge increases to itself; and second, on any performance related criteria, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers do not deserve any increase in pay. The Taoiseach is to get an extra £13,900 a year. This increase is about the same as the average industrial worker's total wage. How can the Taoiseach justify awarding himself an increase of as much as the total income that many workers have to live on and use to raise their families? The Taoiseach's increase works out at £267 per week. This increase is over four times the total amount of the non-contributory old age pension. The total amount the Taoiseach will receive is 30 times that received on a weekly basis, or on a montyly basis, by an old age pensioner.
The Tánaiste will get an extra £230 per week. This increase is almost four times more than the individual long term unemployment assistance rate. These increases are being claimed by the same Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers who introduced a tax on unemployment benefit and who abolished — because they could not afford it — pay related benefit. They did these things which affected those at the other end of the income scale while they are now taking these disproportionate increases for themselves. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and their Ministers have complacently accepted this huge 17 per cent pay rise, five times as great as the rate of increases awarded to ordinary TDs and far more than the 2 per cent increase for other workers under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work.
The Taoiseach is now the second highest paid Prime Minister in Europe; the Tánaiste is now paid more than eight other EU Prime Ministers. This is scandalous and unsustainable. The British Prime Minister is paid about £1,377 per million British citizens whose interests he has to look after. The Dutch Prime Minister is paid about £5,400 for each million Dutch citizens he has to look after. Our Taoiseach, on the other hand, no doubt reflecting his importance as world statesman and world traveller, now believes he should award himself a pay rate of £27,400 for each million Irish people he looks after. Compare that with £1,377 which the British Prime Minister is paid for each million British citizens he looks after. The Taoiseach is paid over 20 times what John Major gets on a per capita basis.
We know the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste love to travel. "Leaving on a jet plane" would probably have been a very suitable campaign anthem in the general election we nearly had this week. Yet, there is a serious side to some, but by no means all, of this travel by Ministers and the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and their Ministers regularly go to Europe in search of extra aid, extra billions of aid for this country, on the basis that we are one of the poorer members of the European Union. How can they make a good case for that proposition when they are paying themselves more than the other Prime Ministers and Ministers sitting around the table? How convincing is it to say that money should be taken from French or British taxpayers, because Ireland needs it on grounds of poverty, when the people making that case have decided they are entitled to a higher salary than the French and British Prime Ministers whose taxpayers are supposed to find the extra money for this poor country that can afford to pay its Prime Minister more than the rich countries? It does not make sense, and it has been said that in Europe personal relations are important.
If you are making a case around a dinner table or a meeting table that Ireland needs more money and if you are being paid more than the people from whom you are asking that money, it does not help you make your case effectively, especially if the case is Ireland is poor. How can Irish Ministers credibly negotiate a special case for Ireland on the basis of relative disadvantage when the same Ministers pay themselves more than the Ministers from the country whose money we are asking to given to us on ground of relative poverty here.
The Taoiseach should not forget that workers covered by national pay agreements, such as the Programme for Competiveness and Work, must prove genuine improvements in productivity and more efficient work practices to justify any extra pay under a special pay claim. Looking back on the shambles of the past few weeks, how could anyone say that a pay increase is justified for these Ministers? All Ministers now have an array of programme managers and other assistants financed by the taxpayer to help them in their work. This reduces the personal load that falls on Ministers and further undermines the argument that a disproportionate personal pay increase for Ministers is justified.
Under the Programme for Competiveness and Work agreement to special payments in the public service must result in savings and improved quality of public service in whatever public service area the extra special pay increases are being justified. What savings has this Cabinet made to justify an extra pay increase for the individual members of the Cabinet? Can Ministers justify this enormous pay increase through their savings in their own area of work? These are the criteria that apply under the Programme for Competiveness and Work.
There is little evidence of savings or frugality of any kind on the part of Ministers of this Government in their own areas of work. We have only to look at the vastly inflated budgets for personnel and travel in Minister's offices to see that instead of savings, there have been increases in outgoings in areas directly controlled by Ministers. There is little evidence of saving in the increased use of luxury hotels, the demand to use only the presidential suite in a particular hotel as a condition for staying there, the wasteful use of the Government jet and helicopter and the awarding of jobs in the public service to relatives, friends and cronies at the taxpayer's expense. Those are now seen as part of the essential perks of office. They do not represent savings, but extra expenditure which would not justify a special pay increase for Ministers.
Have taxpayers seen any improved quality of public service from the Ministers concerned? Last week the Taoiseach and Tánaiste were in such a sulk with one another they could not bring themselves to have a telephone conversation about the position in TEAM Aer Lingus and Irish Steel when it appeared 3,000 jobs might be lost. An employer would sack two employees who were unable to have a civil telephone conversation about a major problem which involved them, yet at the highest level in the Government there are two people who put their pride at such a premium that, even though 3,000 jobs were at risk, they could not bring themselves to talk to one another about the matter. They do not deserve to be in employment.
The Taoiseach and his Ministers have treated the Government as if it were their private property: the levers of powers are used for their benefit; friends and relatives are parachuted into specially created Government jobs; national lottery funds are distributed by Ministers as sweetners to vocal constituents and lobby groups; statutory bodies, such as Bord Fáilte and the VHI, are taken under political control to maximise patronage and unelected minders — briefers — run the country while their Ministers cross the globe on even longer and more frequent trips.
Some months ago we saw how Ministers handled that most precious of all civic rights, the right to a passport, the right to citizenship of this egalitarian republic. The award of citizenship was done in secret on the basis of a recommendation from one Minister to another. As a result of one such chain of recommendations, a huge sum was invested in a company substantially owned by the Taoiseach——